Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate…

Happy Valentine’s Day to our friends and family all over the world

Today is Valentine’s Day, celebrated in one way or another throughout the world. I found this website listing how a few countries celebrate this day of love, a few of which I am sharing below using their photos:

Finland and Estonia

“While Valentine’s Day is celebrated with cards, candy, and flowers in North America, other places around the world put their spin on the holiday. They may celebrate a little differently now to ensure social distance, but people still find ways to show their love during this holiday.

box of chocolates

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

In Finland and Estonia (both countries in Northern Europe), February 14th is less about romance and more about friendship. In fact, these countries celebrate Friend’s Day rather than Valentine’s Day. During this holiday, people exchange cards and small gifts with their friends.”

In 2019, we visited both of these beautiful, historic countries in our travels. While there, it was evident they are kind and friendly people, certainly impacting how they celebrate Valentine’s Day.


Valentine's Day wooden spoon

“Photo Public Domain by Jose-Manuel Benito

Wales, part of Great Britain, has its version of Valentine’s Day. On January 25th, the Welsh people celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day. For centuries, men gave women a “love spoon” as a token of their affection. These wooden spoons were carved by the men and had elaborate designs on the handle. Today, love spoons remain a popular gift on St. Dwynwen’s Day and are even available in chocolate.”

We visited Wales in 2019, while in the UK as we will be again in only a few months. Their rich history, fascinating ruins, and points of interest made our two weeks there memorable and special. Of course, we’ve spent Valentine’s Day in nine countries over the years.

Following is a list of each of the countries where we spent Valentine’s Day over the past nine years of world travel:

2013: Placencia, Belize

Valentine’s Day sunrise photo of the Caribbean Sea taken by Tom this morning while standing less than 10 feet from our veranda. See the link here.

2014: Marloth Park, South Africa

Honey, if I can’t make your favorite butterscotch pie for Valentine’s Day to celebrate. Instead, I present you with this photo of one that I had made many moons ago in the days when we ate sugar and flour and ingredients were available. See the link here.

2015: Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii

This parent and chick sit close to one another until the chick becomes more confident, and the parents feel more at ease. In time, the chick will be left behind on its own, most likely in June or July. Although Cathy explained that on occasion, a fledgling won’t leave the nest until August, at which time, she can go on her vacation. She won’t leave until they have all left the area and her job of overseeing them for the years is over until next November, when many will return to the area. See the post here.

2016: New Plymouth, New Zealand

Here’s my Valentine’s Day date, smiling as always. See the post here.
It was fun to be out to dinner. See the post here.

2017: Huon Valley, Tamania, Australia

Statue in Franklin commemorating World War I soldiers. See the post here.

2018: Marloth Park, South Africa

There she was yesterday,  a pretty kudu, standing by the watering hole in the yard of our holiday home. She nibbled on pellets and hung around for some time. Female kudus usually weigh 463 pounds (210 kg), while male bulls may be well over 661 pounds (300 kg). Only the males have long spiral horns. We’ll share male kudus we spotted while out on our nightly drive tomorrow. See the post here.

2019: Nelspruit, South Africa

There was no post on this date. I was in the hospital in Nelspruit, having had open-heart surgery two days earlier.

2020: Amritsar, India

Town after the town became a picturesque view as we wound our way down the mountains from Shimla to Amritsar in India. See the post here.

2021: Marloth Park, South Africa

Due to WiFi issues, there were no photos posted on this date. See the post here.

That’s the list, folks. We left Minnesota in October 2012 but didn’t celebrate our first Valentine’s Day on our journey until February 2013. We hope all of our family, friends, and reader/friends, have a lovely Valentine’s Day celebrating those you love, near and afar.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, February 14, 2021:

As mentioned above, there was no photo on this date in 2021.

Day #235 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Friday the 13th on this awful year, 2020…Indian superstitions…

Tom, standing at the beach enjoying the early evening sky and the sea.

Today’s photos are from this date while staying in a condo overlooking Maalaea Beach, Maui, Hawaii, in 2014. For the story and more photos from this date, please click here.

We’ve never been particularly superstitious. Friday the 13th has never been a date that caused us any concern, although many worldwide have cultural superstitions and fears eliciting certain practices and customs. In the US, there are several common superstitions, such as walking under a ladder; crossing the path of a black cat; spilling salt; a hat on the bed; breaking a mirror; knocking on wood; finding a penny for good luck, and making a wish using a wishbone (from poultry) and of course, Friday the 13th.

Across the bay, it’s still Maui based on the island’s shape.

Superstitions may be different in other cultures, with many of significance and freely observed by many Indian people. They include, from this site:

“Hanging lemon and seven green chilies
India believes that ‘Alakshmi,’ the goddess of misfortune, can bring bad luck to the shop owners or businesses. Since she likes sour, pungent, and hot things, shop owners in India hang lemon and seven green chilies on their door so that the goddess eat her favorite food, satisfy her hunger and leave without entering the shop.

If a black cat crosses your path, it’s a bad omen.
Just because they are black cats? Not just in India, but this is a popular belief in the west too. The origin of this superstition came from the Egyptians, who believed that black cats were evil creatures and they brought bad luck. In India, black colour is generally associated with Lord Shani. It is said that if a black cat crosses your path, then you should let somebody else pass before you do. This way, the first person will have all the bad luck, and you won’t.

Breaking mirror brings bad luck.
It is said that in earlier times, mirror used to be very expensive but brittle. To avoid negligence, the ancient people from Rome started preaching that breaking mirrors would bring you seven years of bad luck. Why seven years? This is because Romans believe that it takes seven years for life to renew itself. So, the image of a person, who does not have good health, will break the mirror, and after seven years, his life will renew itself, and he’ll be in good health.

Hawaii is a treasure trove of exquisite vegetation.

Twitching of the eye is inauspicious.
The superstition is different in different cultures. It is considered good luck in some cultures and wrong in some others. It differs according to gender as well. Since it is related to the eyes, there are many scientific reasons behind the twitching of the eyes. Eye twitching could be due to stress, alcohol, tiredness, allergies, strain, or just dry eyes.

Removing evil eye (Nazar Utaarna)
Putting a little dot of kohl on the side of a child’s forehead is very common in India. The practice is called Nazar Utaarna. It is done to protect the little kid from any evil eyes and prevent anyone from putting a negative vibe over the kid. The evil eye can cause severe damage to whom it turns. It is said that putting a black spot on a child’s forehead will make the child look ugly to the evil powers, and hence, the kid will stay protected.

Adding one rupee to a gift sum
At weddings and special occasions, we Indians generally like to gift money, and it won’t be 100 or 1,000 but 101 or 1,001. We add one rupee coin to the entire sum. It is considered a blessing, love, and luck. But, the main reason to add that extra coin is to make the whole sum an odd number, and it will be indivisible. It is suitable for the married couple. If we don’t add one rupee coin, the sum will end in a zero, which means ‘the end.’

This almost looks like a scene from New England by the sea.

Do not sweep after sunset.
Goddess Lakshmi will walk out of your house if you sweep your place after sunset. In a country where we pray to goddess Lakshmi to bestow wealth on us, any idea that leads to her walking out is considered inauspicious. Why sunset? This is because it is believed that the goddess generally pays a visit after sunset, so if you sweep your place after sunset, she won’t come in.

Don’t go near a Peepal tree in the night
Peepal is one tree the ghosts like to hover around, and if you sleep around a peepal tree at night, the ghosts will kill you. Do you know that plants and living beings keep a balance in nature? In the morning, when the photosynthesis is occurring in them, they absorb carbon dioxide, change it into energy and give out oxygen in the air we breathe in. Still, in the night, the opposite reaction occurs. At night, plants exhale carbon dioxide while there is a lack of sunlight. Animals sleep under trees all the time. Why don’t we see all of them dead next morning?”

A pretty tropical flower.

This list could go on and on with more obscure superstitions observed by those who tend to find strong belief in these age-old practices, some making logical sense and others not so much.

While we toured India many months ago, we observed and participated in many customs that were not necessarily superstitions, as explained here:

“By superstition, we generally mean a belief in supernatural causes, beliefs that link events together without proof or reason, especially when these ideas are conventional outside thought. A black cat walks in front of you – it means bad luck – that is a typical superstition. Walking down the aisle – that is a custom.”

At around 5:30 pm, Tom spotted this rainbow. It hadn’t rained.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the “customs” we observed as tourists in India with suggestions for those with plans to visit India in the future.

Tom just mentioned that in 2020 there were two Friday the 13ths. The other was on March 13th, the day we stopped touring India, when the cruise we’d booked from Mumbai beginning on April 3, 2020, was canceled on March 12th.  Go figure.

Photo from one year ago today, November 13, 2019:

On this date, it was snowing in Minneapolis and the suburbs, and the roads were slippery. For more, please click here.

Shocking to us…Natural for those of another culture…Not for the squeamish…

This morning, kids playing in the river.

“Sightings on the Beach in Bali” (All of today’s photos were taken during “Sightings on the Beach”)

If we never left the villa other than for our daily walks, we’ll never run out of photos and topics for our posts. With 47 days until we depart the villa to head to Denpasar for another stay in the Kuta hotel while we await our upcoming red-eye flight on October 30th, we’re surprised by the experiences that just keep coming and coming.

No doubt, getting out will also be worthwhile when tomorrow after uploading the post, we’re renting Egon’s van for a half day outing to Negara, the closest good sized city on the highway.

When we watched this activity on the river, we had no idea what was transpiring especially with the large cart used to haul the cow’s carcass which appeared to be cut into huge pieces.

Our intent is to do some sightseeing, take photos ending at the largest supermarket in the area to pick up some cheese and a few other items we’ll need during the remainder of the stay. 

Also, we’ll stop at an ATM once again. Our supply of Indonesian Rupiah quickly dwindle when each day we’re providing the two Ketuts with enough cash to pay for the meals. We only pay for the actual cost of the food and a small sum for fuel for their motorbikes. Daily, they provide us with a neat hand printed receipt with the change. Its at the end of our stay that we happily give them generous tips in appreciation for their hard work and fine efforts.

Yesterday was quite a day. With numerous “Sightings on the Beach” that both shocked and astounded us, we were picking up the camera time after times for yet another round of photos.

It was hard to tell what was going on, especially with the large white bags.

Today’s story and photos are not for the squeamish. We apologize if this upsets or offends any of our readers. That’s not our intention. Nor is today’s post based on a possible shock factor.

Our goal in sharing this story and photos is purely predicated by our desire to share cultural differences we strive to embrace, rather than criticize, to graciously accept, rather than turn away.

We’ve discovered over time that many of the local’s perception of the ocean and other bodies of waters is very different from many of our own. Many of us may perceive the ocean and rivers for their beautiful eye catching scenery. Many of us take a hard stance and commitment on making every effort to preserve the cleanliness of our world’s oceans, each in our own small way.

We wondered, “What was a long white stringy stuff? Were they cleaning squid?  Nope.

The Balinese people see the ocean as a source of revenue and work hard using its resources to earn a living by fishing, providing tourist activities and as a personal resource in their daily lives.

Early on, when we first arrived in Bali we delighted in watching children playing in the nearby river.  At times, the children were naked joyfully running to and fro often for hours at a time. The river consists of fresh water, as most rivers, flowing from the mountains, rivers and streams inland to the sea. 

When the high tide occurs twice each 24 hour period, the fresh water is mixed with ocean water, creating a number of pools in which children and adults play, wash clothes and bathe. There’s more.

Under no circumstances is that water clean. Why not? We’ve observed both humans and buffalo defecate in that water. Can we even imagine the volume of poop coming from a 1,500 to 2,650 lbs, 700 to 1,200 kg, buffalo when standing in that river for an hour each day?

The mysterious activity transpired over a period of a few hours.

The fact that we’ve spotted many humans using the pools as toilets, there’s no doubt these waters are contaminated with toxic bacteria. Perhaps the locals immune systems have adapted to the bacteria and don’t become ill when swimming in the river. We can only surmise this. 

Last time we were in Bali, beginning April 30th, leaving the villa on June 27th, I became ill from eating squid I requested for a meal. The taste was fresh and appealing, but hours later and for several following day, I had an outrageous case of “diari” for which Gede took me to the pharmacy for meds. 

I should have known better than to eat squid caught close to the shore. How many times have I mentioned that we must exercise extreme caution in avoiding seafood caught near the shore? I’ve finally learned my lesson. Now we only eat fresh tuna caught out to sea in deeper waters.

Dogs crowded around giving is the impression they were dealing with some type of animal.

For us foreigners aware of the situation, swimming in that toxic water would never be a consideration. We haven’t ventured into the ocean in front of our villa for this very same reason when we’ve seen endless piles of garbage resting on the sand after the tide wans. 

The sea undoubtedly is beautiful to observe mesmerized by its sounds and tide. Is it safe for swimming? Perhaps not so much in this area and others.

After taking this photo I asked Tom what was the longest section they were handling. Later we knew.

Yesterday proved to be a day adding to our knowledge of cultural difference as to the use of the water in the nearby river and pools which most likely is prevalent in many parts of the world including Bali. We always knew this, but hadn’t actually witnessed vastness of these differences until yesterday’s experiences.

Today’s post and photos is all about “Sightings on the Beach” in its truest form. Nothing we’ve seen to date has surprised us quite as much while also further educating us in the ways of life in other cultures. 

Once they were gone and the two Katuks arrived to make dinner, I showed them the photos and they explained the kids/adults were cleaning and eviscerating a cow. Although this may be gross to many throughout the world, it’s a part of life for others.

Details of our discovery are contained in the photo captions as local Muslims cleaned the carcass of a slaughtered cow in that same river, while dogs gathered around waited for the pieces of the cow entrails, later running down the beach with white matter hanging from their mouths.

Today, again, another peaceful day. The weather has been considerably less humid and cooler than during our last visit, at times, feeling cool when we’ve exited the pool soaking wet. It’s ideal now as we’re appreciating every moment.

We hope your day brings you opportunities to appreciate your surroundings.

Photo from one year ago today, September 13, 2015:

These colorful flowers were growing close to the house in Fiji. For more details as we adapted to a simple life in Savusavu, please click here.

Part 2…Unbelievable day in Fiji…A cultural experience filled with wonders!

Upon arrival in Vuadomo, Tima,  standing on the right, came out to greet us warmly shaking our hands and leading us toward this structure where handmade crafts are offered for sale by the local women.

Nothing we do in our travels is more fulfilling than meeting the local people and having an opportunity to share the treasures found in their area, on their lands and in their villages, those which they hold in reverence and high esteem.

Most likely, these craftswomen of Vuadomo sit here all day waiting for tourists to arrive. It isn’t necessary to call ahead to let make them aware of our pending arrival. We didn’t see any other tourists while we visited, only one passing taxi on our way in.

Witnessing these treasures through their eyes and ours gives us a perspective, if only for a flash in time, of how they live among one another, cherishing the land and nature to provide them with everything they need.

As we entered the area of their marketplace, we were warmly welcomed and asked to sit and relax for a few minutes on the benches provided as shown on the right in this photo.

So is the case for the villagers of Vuadomo who have managed in their creativity, to utilize the beauty of their surroundings on the lands owned by their ancestors, to create a source of revenue to offset the costs for those aspects of life not provided by their gardens, their livestock and the seemingly endless sources of food from the ocean adjoining their lands.

Ratnesh explained he may bring tourists to see the waterfall a few times each week. He isn’t charged for entrance to the village on each occasion. Only the tourists are charged the token entrance fee of FJD $10, USD $4.64 per person, plus the gift of kava for the chief.

Yes, we were a little taken aback to see they had cellphones but, we saw no TV antennas, no satellite dishes, no cars, and no other motorized means of transportation. They do have electricity, septic systems, and well water.

The women were friendly hoping to sell their handmade jewelry.  Instead of making a purchase, we left a tip.

Many of the 80 residents, living in a total of about 16 modest homes, had small garden plots with plenty of chickens and roosters. We heard the sounds of goats but didn’t see them, although pigs and piglets were plentiful wandering freely throughout the property, most gathered by the water. We saw no cows in the immediate area.

A worn but adequate house in the village.

It’s a simple life with idle time spent in the evenings drinking kava, in the same manner, many others throughout the world gather for “happy hour” or enjoy alcoholic beverages with meals. 

Tom was equally fascinated as I was, as we wandered through the village with Tima.

Tima explained that drinking kava peaks the appetite. Often, there will be a variety of home-baked sweets available for “snacking.” It’s all a part of the ritual, a part of their everyday lives.

These chickens and roosters were outside the chief’s house (Tima’s grandfather).

Most of the villagers we encountered were rotund as a result of this pastime pleasure. Diabetes is rampant in Fiji, becoming worse each year. Ratnesh explained that with free medical care with accompanying free medications, many Fijians accept this condition as a part of life. Some Fijians have lost teeth due to years of drinking and chewing kava along with other health-related conditions.

Some of the homes were in ill repair while others were more up to date.

Comparable to overuse of alcohol, overuse of kava and addiction is not uncommon, especially in the male population. Apparently, women drink kava on social occasions and celebrations although not as regularly as men. These old traditions live on through generations.

This structure is used for ceremonial rites and kava drinking.  We’d seen similar structures when we visited the Masaai village in Kenya.

As Tima took us through the village, we had the opportunity, if only for a short time, to imagine the lives of these gentle, kind people. There’s never been a single moment since we arrived on this quiet island that we have felt unsafe. 

Breadfruit is abundant in Fiji. Tima explained the sweet fruit is commonly used in meal preparation.

Their joy for life at a slow pace with little anxiety is evident in almost every Fijian we’ve met, whether they are native Fijians or Indo-Fijians whose ancestors immigrated from India and who practice Hinduism. Please see this link for more on the Indo-Fijians who encompass 43% of the population in Fiji.

Tima showed us (me, Tom, and Ratnesh) the “lali,” a wooden drum in varying sizes from 2 to 3 feet which is used as a church service bell, alerting the villagers that it’s time for the service. With “Fiji time” it may not be at the same time each week.

The Vuadomo tribe are practicing Christians with a church located on their property as shown in the photos below. The pastor, who doesn’t live in the village, visits weekly or as needed to conduct services. We were both surprised by the size and beauty of the church as we gingerly stepped inside, careful not to tread too far into their sacred space.

This quaint small church is ideal based on the number of villagers in Vuadomo, named as a memorial to a former pastor.

We had no idea that the tour of the waterfall would include so much more. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our faces as we wandered about the property, in awe of these people and the home they’ve provided for themselves with resourcefulness, simplicity, and dignity.

There are no pews or chairs in the church. Sitting on the ground is common for Fijians of all ages. 

How fortunate and humbled we are to have this inside peek into the lives of others so far away from whence we came, not only in distance but also in lifestyle. They, too, like us, are eternally grateful for the treasures they’ve received through hard work and determination and ultimately, the gifts they’ve been given by the grace of their chosen higher power.

The houses vary in degrees of maintenance and care based on each owner’s preference.

In the realm of things, none of us are any different. We find our place in the world doing our best to survive and thrive with the tools we have available. We often feel sadness and angst over what appears to be poverty when in fact, many of those we perceive as poor look at our lives of over-abundance, thinking how rich they actually are.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more photos and stories of the resources in the Vuadomo village that provide sustenance for the villagers. Please check back!

Photo from one year ago, October 24, 2014:

We’re always happy to have a dining table and chairs as opposed to sitting at a countertop for meals. The condo in Maui had everything we could possibly want or need. And yet, we’ve found we do well without a TV, dishwasher, AC, or other modern conveniences. Even now, in Fiji, we manage with a less than comfortable bed and daily visits from armies of ants. For more details, please click here.

Part 1…Unbelievable day in Fiji…A cultural experience filled with wonders!

The Fish Shop where we purchased kava for the chief.

When Rasnesh picked us up yesterday morning, the sun was shining and we were set for more sightseeing.  After the first 20 minutes in the car, the clouds rolled in and it began to rain. We weren’t deterred. 

Rasnesh explained that prior to visiting the village of Vuadomo, we’d stop in Savusavu to purchase the customary Fijian intoxicating Kava, for $5, USD $2.29, to bring to the village as a gift for the chief who would provide permission for us to visit the waterfall and his village. 

There are several ATMs in Savusavu easily assessable from either side of the road.

Low on cash, we stopped at an ATM when we’d also need cash to pay the chief the entrance fee to the waterfall of FJD $10 USD $4.59 per person. Cash in hand, we walked the short distance to the local Fish Shop to purchase the kava.  We never noticed any fish in the shop with its two pool tables and hanging and drying kava plants and a variety of kava “paraphernalia.”

The kava, a brown powdery substance, is made in the same manner as loose tea.  Its steeps for 10 to 15 minutes, and is stained before drinking. See this website for more details on the modern-day preparation of kava.

Shalote, one of our two housekeepers, explained that the locals also purchase kava from this shop. Ratnesh explained he doesn’t partake due to his religious beliefs, although many locals of strong faiths feel comfortable enjoying the relaxing benefits of this potent drink.

Although our visit to the village wasn’t specifically to witness a kava drinking ceremony, the villagers frequently partake in the drinking of this “beverage” for its intoxicating effects, as one would partake of alcoholic beverages.

Actually, we were somewhat relieved that our visit didn’t include a kava drinking ceremony. Tom’s picky taste buds would surely prevent him from wanting to try the drink and I steer clear of anything intoxicating for health reasons.

Pool tables in the Fish Shop where kava is purchased.  Note the hanging kava branches along the wall. Fijian people rarely drink alcoholic beverages but, may on occasion, drink a beer after kava.

Many tourists choose to participate in the traditional kava drinking ceremonies as a “tourist attraction” offered by local tour operators. Ratnesh explained there is only one local tribe offering the ceremony that he’s aware of on this area of the island which must be arranged in advance.

Kava powder in hand, as shown in this photo below, we were back on the road to our destination stopping at many points for photos. Along the way, the rain stopped and although the sun didn’t return until later in the day, we were thrilled to be out once again. 

Kava branches were hanging to dry.

It was a fairly long drive from the main highway to the village, where we meet several villagers and had an opportunity to have Tima show us what life is like in a small Fijian village tucked away in the rainforest with easy access to the riches of the ocean bordering their property; fresh fish, crabs, and shrimp.

Vuadomo is a small village down on a long and steep dirt road where 80 villagers reside, most related to one another, with only a few children in residence. 

The chief owns the land where the village is located making this experience especially interesting to us. Visitors arrive daily and the fees charged for access to the village and waterfall aid in providing the village with a source of income. 

This is the bag of kava we purchased to bring to the chief as a gift, asking for permission to see his village and the waterfall on his land in Vuadomo.

Upon our arrival, we were shown an open area where several locals women sat on mats showing their jewelry and crafts hoping tourists will make a purchase. Instead of making a purchase for items we didn’t need or want, we chose to leave a tip with Tima at the end of our visit.

The tribal women spoke excellent English and we engaged in idle conversation with several of them when they asked us where we were from. They suggested, as traditional, that we sit on the bench and relax for a bit. We did so, enjoying a cool breeze in the sticky humidity while we sat on the bench in quiet contemplation, reveling in the peaceful surroundings.

Apparently, these bags contain a kava mix. See this link for more information on the processing of kava which is done throughout the world, including in the Hawaiian Islands.

After a while, Tima escorted us on a tour of the village. Her grandfather, the chief, waved to us while he was working on the exterior of his house. Preferring not to disturb him, we continued on as shown in these photos in awe of the simplicity of their everyday lives while intrigued with their resourcefulness and their gratefulness for their lives. 

These “wrappers” are used for those who prefer to smoke kava.

Tima, 23 years old, explained that when the day came that she’d find a husband and have a family of her own, she’d relocate to her husband’s village. We wondered how she’d possibly meet someone when this particular tribe didn’t pre-arrange marriage. We chose not to ask respecting their privacy and customs.

The cashier in the shop where we purchased the kava is behind this protective cage. Although the crime rate is low in Savusavu and on this island in general, with the volume of money coming into this shop each day, the owners must have felt such precaution is necessary.

Tomorrow, we’ll return with Part 2, for the story and photos of the village, the lifestyle of the villagers, and how they are able to sustain themselves on available resources.

Photo from one year ago today, October 23, 2014:

In the post, one year ago, we shared food prices in Maui at the largest grocery store in Kihei, a 20-minute drive from our condo where we continued to shop during the remainder of our stay.  For details, please click here.